Going global from blog to novel. A reading of Beirut, I Love You, by Zena el Khalil

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Aina Vidal – Pérez


Beirut Update is the name of the blog through which the Lebanese artist and performer Zena el Khalil documented, since the summer of 2006, the scenes of the Israeli attacks from her Beirut apartment. The digital platform became a must – see for those seeking to understand how life passed in the Lebanese capital during the war and quickly received international acclaim and was publicised on various news portals including CNN, BBC, The Guardian, The Nation, or Spiegel Online. In 2008, that experience was transformed into a novel: Beirut, I Love You was published by Saqi Books, a London – based independent publisher of North African and Middle Eastern books. Between autofiction and memoirs, the novel documents situations such as perverse interrogations, refugees forced to live crowded together in a camp, the random movement of borders, the contradictions of being a woman in a war – torn city, or the poisoning of the population due to bombings and armament waste. It was translated into several languages including Spanish, Portuguese, Swedish, and Italian.

This paper has two main goals. First, to carry on a reflection on the literary repre­sentations of global issues and their local manifestations such as war, environ­mental crisis, cosmopolitanism, or gender politics in order to consider how El Khalil’s novel queries or contributes to global discourses. Second, to expand the discussion on the assumption of the novel as the most suitable form to transfer the experience of globalization. If one of the main distinctions between digital literature and printed publications is that the former offers the possibility of interaction and of building a sense of the collective, what is lost and what is gained in the transformation from digital to print, from blog to novel? How can examples like El Khalil’s help us to better conceptualize the novel in the global era?

Published: Nov 14, 2022

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The Global Novel: Crossing Circulation and Poetics